Md. City Council Concerned About Long Wait Times on 9-1-1 Calls


Md. City Council Concerned About Long Wait Times on 9-1-1 Calls

News Nov 21, 2017

The Baltimore Sun

Nov. 21—Several Baltimore City Council members voiced concerns Monday about wait times constituents have experienced when calling 911, saying residents have relayed stories of being placed on hold while homes were burglarized and houses burned.

"At minimum, our citizens deserve for their calls to be picked up," said City Councilman Zeke Cohen, who read aloud complaints from residents during a Public Safety Committee hearing on the city's 911 operation. "I think we on the council are feeling that there is a systemic problem happening."

Baltimore Fire Chief Niles Ford testified that the average wait time for the city's 911 is only six seconds, and said he has only about two dozen complaints on record about long wait times.

But Ford acknowledged longer wait times do occur during major incidents—such as a fire during which dozens of people call at the same time. The city also is experiencing higher rates of calls because of the increasing rate of violent crime, he said.

Ford said the 911 call center's staffing has declined over the years. Before 2009, the city assigned 35 operators to the 911 call center for each shift. Today, staffing is between 12 and 18 per shift, he said.

Former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake transferred control of the call center to the fire and police departments in 2015. Before then, oversight of the 911 system had been under Mayor's Office of Information Technology.

Ford encouraged council members to send him the specific complaints they've received, saying: "We want to make sure we continue to improve. We'd love to look into each one of the complaints that you've discussed."

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and council members Ryan Dorsey and Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer echoed Cohen's concerns, saying they've received complaints from constituents about long wait times.

"I get complaints all the time," Schleifer said.

Continue Reading

Dorsey said he fielded a complaint from one resident who said she waited on hold as she watched a home get burglarized.

"When you say we don't fail to dispatch calls, it's just not true," Dorsey told fire officials.

Young said residents have contacted him via Facebook to raise concerns.

"If we're not fully staffed, what's the impediment that's keeping this from being fully staffed?" Young asked. "This is really critical to the lives of people who live in the city... This is an emergency for us. We really want to make sure are we attracting [and] maintaining these 911 operators."

City Councilman Brandon Scott, chairman of the public safety committee, suggested that the council consider pressuring the mayor's office to add more positions for 911 operators into next year's budget.

But, he said, residents may also need more education about where to call with complaints, noting that many issues are better served by calling the city's non-emergency 311 service.

"We have a lot of folks who are calling 911 for things they should be calling 311 for," Scott said.

City Council members have repeatedly raised concerns about the 911 system. They say residents have complained of dropped calls, no answers and busy signals when trying to report an emergency.

Last June, the 911 system crashed for more than an hour—leaving police and firefighters unable to receive calls via the emergency phone line. The crash was suspected to have been caused by a problem with Verizon, which maintains equipment and networks for the city.

Ford said Monday that problem has been resolved and the system hasn't crashed since.

The city's 911 center is the state's busiest, sometimes handling 4,000 calls a day. About three-fourths of calls are for police assistance; the rest are for medical emergencies and fires.

Call-takers are busiest between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. each day, Ford said.

Luke Broadwater
A reorganization of the WTC Health Program for first responders affected by the toxins at Ground Zero could negatively impact their healthcare.
Sonoma County dispatchers were understaffed and had not been trained in coaching citizens trapped by the wildfires that killed 24 people.
The San Antonio Fire Department has released its position statement on the management of patients with potential spinal injuries.
If passed, the bill will allow medical professionals with firearms training to carry weapons when responding to an event with a SWAT team.
NENA members met with policymakers to discuss major improvements for the 9-1-1 system.
The 2018 ESO EMS index highlights areas of improvement such as documenting stroke assessment, 12-lead EKG use, and aspirin administration.
Retained firefighter Ian Norris is running his final London Marathon in memory of a local doctor to raise vital funds for Wiltshire Air Ambulance.
Users trained in CPR are alerted by the app of people nearby experiencing cardiac arrest.
Stop the Bleed kits are housed in about 345 schools statewide where staff members are also trained in bleeding control techniques.
Gov. Cuomo's 2014 gun control law kept 75,000 mentally ill people from owning firearms, a measure he thinks could save lives around the country.
The need for the program was identified after the Pulse nightclub shooting, when multiple consulates contacted the hospital to see if any of their nationals were victims of the attack.
ACP says a lack of policy on firearms is why the U.S. remains a country with one of the highest rates of gun violence in the world.  
Norwalk firefighters taught citizens CPR in a Valentine's Day-themed class and informed them of AED locations in the city.
Dispatch center communications are expected to evolve in ways that would allow home appliances and wristbands to call 9-1-1 for patients who are unable to do so.
Franklin County Emergency Services Alliance aims to assess the challenges first responders face that cause shortages of EMS providers across the country.